London: Striking a positive note ahead of his visit to India, Prime Minister David Cameron has said Britain`s friendship with the country is "vitally important".
"I have made two official visits to India since I became Prime Minister and I can tell you today that very soon I will be making my third. This is a vitally important friendship for the United Kingdom," Cameron said after his first visit to a Hindu temple since becoming Prime Minister.
"We want to be the partner of choice for India, to grow, to do business and, to make that case, I want to have you right behind me," he said.
The Prime Minister and his wife Samantha visited the Swaminarayan Mandir at Neasden here yesterday to celebrate Diwali.
"Every New Year begins with a wish. So I hope you will allow me two wishes today. My first wish is this: that the British-Indian community helps to strengthen our relationship with India," he said ahead of his third visit to India in two years from November 14.
"Yes, we have a shared language, we have cultural ties, we have shared past, but what really matters is how we can work together now and in the future," Cameron said.
At the temple, Cameron was greeted in traditional Indian manner by Jitu Patel, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, and Satyavrat Swami (Head Sadhu) of the BAPS Sri Swaminarayan Mandir.
Cameron and his wife performed a ritual bathing of a metallic image of `Bhagwan Swaminarayan` within the Mandir.
After spending several minutes inside the Mandir, the couple entered the main prayer hall where they performed the aarti lights ritual in front of the `Annakut`, the wall of food.
Speaking to over 2,000 people in the hall, and to another 2,000 via screens in the rest of the temple, the Prime Minister expressed his and his wife`s delight at being at the temple.
Praising the British-Indian community, Cameron said: "I see what the British-Indian community has given to our country. The entrepreneurs who have enriched us, the artists who`ve inspired us, the sportsmen who have entertained us, doctors who have helped us and, of course the fantastic cooks who today have so admirably fed us. Your contribution throughout this country shines out."